Ways of Writing in Art and Design (WOW)

Image: Suzanne Barrett, WOW workshop July 2021, © 2021

Ways of Writing in Art & Design (WOW) is a Research Network established in 2021 within the Visual Culture Research Group (VCRG).

WOW is interested in ways of writing about/with/alongside art and design, including alternative modes of writing such as visual essays and critical fiction, and ways in which this research might be relevant to, and implemented in, art and design higher education. WOW is also interested in the ways in which concepts of immersion might be understood and interpreted with relevance to art and design writing and pedagogies.

WOW is a non-hierarchical, interdisciplinary, and inclusive research network comprising (and open to) students, academics, art and design practitioners, writers, creative industry professionals, and those not yet dreamed of within and beyond these categories.

WOW was launched with a short series of workshops in June/July 2021, addressing questions such as:

  • How did/does the pandemic and lockdown restrictions impact on how we experience art and design and how we research, practice, and write?
  • What does it mean to be immersed in art/design experiences, research, and writing? And how does the pandemic and lockdown restrictions impact on possibilities for immersion?
  • There has, perhaps, been a tendency in the media to assume a universal ‘we’re all in it together’ experience of the pandemic and lockdown (i.e. zoom meetings in pyjama bottoms and a surplus of free time in which to bake sourdough, learn Mandarin, and write your novel). What is the reality of this? How do individual factors, especially during lockdown, impact on the ability to immerse oneself in creative/academic practices?
  • What is meant by ‘academic’ or ‘scholarly’ approaches to writing about art and design?
  • What are the conventions of academic writing and how useful and/or relevant are these in relation to art and design practice, critique, and analysis?
  • In what ways, if any, do you employ ‘non-academic’ materials – for example, fiction, poetry, theatre, social media, graphic novels, film and television, computer games, song lyrics, jokes, operas, journalism, zines, and so on – in your own practice and research?
  • What are the benefits/possibilities and/or limitations, of presenting critical analyses in forms other than the conventional academic essay or dissertation?

The WOW workshops included experimental and collaborative writing exercises (resulting in some highly inventive, witty and poignant texts), in-depth discussion, and presentations from three of the participants on their recent research or work-in-progress. These presentations (which were followed by Q&A and group discussion) are available to view here:

Dr Mary Anne Francis, artist and writer and Principal Lecturer in the School of Art, University of Brighton, presented on her visual essay for her forthcoming Bloomsbury publication: Mixed Forms of Visual Culture: From the Cabinet of Curiosities to Digital Diversity.

Dr Julia Lockheart, Head of Contextual Practices at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), Associate Lecturer in Design Writing at Goldsmiths, founder of the Writing-PAD network, and co-editor of the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, presented on Writing-PAD, the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, the new Contextual Practices she is designing for UWTSD Art & Design students, and her collaborative drawing practice DreamsID.

Dr Clair Schwarz, Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture at the University of the West of England (UWE), presented her short film made to accompany the exhibition A Picture of Health at Arnolfini, Bristol, UK. The film was part of a wider Wellbeing Vox Pop project organised by Dr Clare Johnson, Associate Professor in Art & Design at the University of the West of England.

The June/July 2021 workshops were a highly enjoyable, informative, and productive launch of the WOW network, generating a mutually supportive and generous spirit. We aim to continue and expand the network and welcome expressions of interest from anyone interested in becoming involved.

Clair Schwarz

Julia Lockheart

Mary Anne Francis